"With the Food Network and Fine Living Channel, people are more aware of different culinary experiences, and they're seeking those in a luxury event itinerary," said Michelle Caporicci, senior corporate director of meetings and special events at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., based in Chevy Chase, Md. Her remarks came during the Ritz-Carlton Luxury Meetings Forum, held last month in Orlando, Fla. Forum panelists addressed topics ranging from personalizing the luxury meeting experience to catering and themed dining trends.
Among the group's conclusions: The word "luxury" itself could be one of the most abused words in the hospitality lexicon. In a discussion of the changing definition of luxury in today's meeting and incentive market, Ritz-Carlton Orlando general manager Mark Freland concluded that the word is highly overused these days. "Luxury has evolved in recent years," he said. "It used to be solely based on material things--fixtures and amenities--but now, I believe it has a lot to do with high, sometimes over-the-top service levels and the anticipation of what a guest needs and wants."
Most panelists agreed that dining was a key component of a luxury meeting or incentive. "The dining events have to be memorable," Caporicci said.
RESTAURANT IN THE BANQUET ROOM
Andrea Strauss, president of Classic Conferences Inc. of Hackensack, N.J., agreed: "Luxury guests are seeking menu items that can't easily be prepared at home, and they want restaurant-quality cuisine in a banquet setting." Other food and beverage trends include programs designed to avoid wasting food, healthy food alternatives, luxury comfort foods, and a huge increase in special requests.
In addition to Freland, Caporicci, Strauss and members of the press, participants in the three-day event included Chris Gabaldon, vice-president of sales, Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.; Mark Wells, director of creative services, Hello Florida, Orlando; Jennifer Schuster, manager of sales and marketing, Global Planners, Bordentown, N.J.; and John Hart, director of meetings and special events, Sean Woods, executive chef, and Tami Corday, associate director of meetings and special events, all of the Ritz-Carlton Orlando;
This article first appeared in our sister newsletter, MeetingsNet Extra.